Full text of "Lincoln"
Address delivered by Ex-Lieutenant Governor,
W. A. Northcott, of Springfield, Illinois, at Chicago,
February 11th, 1909.
There are two great epochs in the history of the American Republic.
One is the nation-building epocli and the other is the natiourpreserving
epoch. The first had its scene of action in the midst of the thirteen
Colonies on the Atlantic sea-board and its central figure was George
Washington. The second epoch had its principal stage of conflict in
the Mississippi Valley and its hero was Abraham Lincoln.
We recall the history of the early settlements of Jamestown and
I'lymouth Rock. We see the growth of thirteen colonies peopled by the
liberty-loving Anglo-Saxons. We stand with the throngs in the old town
meetings on the commons of Boston and hear the thunder-bolts hurled
by Samuel Adams at the tyranny of the British. We again hear the
matchless eloquence of Patrick Henry in the halls of the Virginia as-
sembly, and the continental congress. Like mountain peaks loom up
the figures of Washington and Franklin. We watch in the morning
twilight for the coming of British regulars along the streets in the
quiet villages of Lexington and Concord. We stand amid the glories
of Bunker Hill and wait with Washington and his barefooted soldiers in
the snow at Valley Forge, and applaud his victory at Trenton. We wit-
ness Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga and Cornwallis' at Yorktown. We
stand in the city of Philadelphia and hear the old liberty bell peal out
the birth of liberty -upon a new continent; and hear the plaudits of the
world at the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence, as
penned by the liberty-loving Jefferson. We see a new naton born, dedi-
cated to freedom and constitutional government; created by a people
whose forefathers, upon the plains at Runnymede, had wrested from
King John the Magna Charta, the bulwark of Anglo-Saxon liberty; a
nation that was to exemplify to all history the truth, that all governments
derive their just j^owers from the consent of the governed.
Nations are net made, they grow. In the beginning of this republic
our forefathers left two great questions for future generations to solve.
Ideas are things, and it was a contest upon these two great ideas that
moulded the bullets that were fired in the civil war. As the teachings
of Voltaire and Rousseau culminated in the French Revolution, so the
discussion of these two great questions ended only at Appomattox.
The first found an early expression in the Kentucky and Virginia
resolutions of 1798 and 1799, inspired by Jefferson. They formulated the
contention that the right of the State was above the right of. the Fede-
ration. Jefferson, the liberty-loving Jefferson, who had just come from
under the shadows of monarchy, knew no centralization except the centrali-
zation of personal gOA'^ernraent. He did not fully undei'stand that in a
representative government the greatest danger is not in centralization,
but in disintegration. He had not come to realize that the greatest tyranny
is the tyranny of the chief of a petty tribe, and that in empire there is
liberty. That in a great representative government where all power comes
from the people, there is no danger of centralization. Calhoun, as the
disciple of Jefferson,, carried this idea to its logical conclusion and advo-
cated the right of nullfication and secession, and closely connected this
question with the other great question of human slavery. This contest
brought into action the transcendent eloquence of Daniel -Webster, whose
defense of the supremacy of our federal government will always be a
part of our national history. It found its most dramatic incident when
Andrew Jackson faced South Carolina in its nullification and, with up-
lifted hand, swore by the Eternal that the right of the Federation was
above the right of any state. And thus commenced the contest that ended
only in civil war.
Here upon the prairies of Illinois more than seventy years ago ap-
peared the fir(3t cloud of the impending storm. The death of Lovejoy at
Alton battling for the liberty of speech. and for human freedom, inspired
the oratory of Wendell Phillips upon the commons of Boston, whose
words i-ang out in favor of liberty like the call to battle. His death
lent strength to the noble Garrison in Massachuetts. It was with John
Brown Avben he died at Harper's Ferry. It inspired the pen of Horace
Greeley, whose words lighted the fires that finally melted away forever
the chains of slavery.
In the midst of this storm came the colossal figure of Abraham Lin-
coln, "the grandest man who has come to us on the tide of time." His
origin was as humble as that of the lowly Nazarene who bore his cross
on the far-off shores of Gallilee. As a solitary mountain peak towers
above the plains, so stood Lincoln above his environments. The cen-
turies will ask of him as they have asked of Shakespeare, from whence
came his greatness, and out of the Eternal will come the answer that
God gave it.
The first real Americans were those who crossed the Appalachian
mountains into the Mississippi Valley. Thus came Andrew Jackson and
Henry Clay and thus came the parents of Abraham Lincoln. This host of
pioneers from Virginia and the Carolinas into Kentucky and Tennessee
and thence into Illinois, made the back-ground for the figure of Lincoln
and they were the men in whose midst was fought out the second great
The stars shine upon no greater people than those who live here in
the valley of the Mississippi river, greater than the Tigris or Euphrates;
greater than the Nile, that flowed by the homes of the Ptolemies and
-Pharoahs, and upon whose banks sit grand, gloomy and peculiar, the ever-
lasting pyramids; greater than the Tiber of ancient Rome, from whose
banks the imperial Caesars ruled the world; greater than the Rhine, in
v/hose valley contended the Teuton and the Gaul for the supremacy of
Europe and the world; greater than all these because it flows by the
home of freemen. And Illinois stretching from the Great Lakes on the
north, to the very heart of the Southland, became the keystone of this
. gre.it valley and here lived and wrought Abraham Lincoln.
"Not without thy wondrous story,
Can be writ thy nations glory,
On the record of thy years
Abraham Lincoln's name appears,
Grant and Logan and our tears,
Lincoln was just entering public life as a member of the Illino-is
Legislature at the formative period of this government. Chief Justice
Marshall was j^et breathing into our Constitution, the breath of a broader
National life. Those giants, Webster and Calhoun, were battling over the
relation of the states to the Federal Government. Webster's great reply
to Hayne was ringing throughout the country like a call to battle. This
great speech built the breast-works behind which the Union soldiers fought
from ISCl to 'Go. Lincoln caught the inspiration of the times and he be-
lieved with Washington and Hamilton that the right of the Federation
was above the right of any state. These great statesmen were aristocrats
but Lincoln was one of the people and put into practice what Jefferson
taught in theory — equality of all men before the law. Without being
an aristocrat, Lincoln believed in the supremacy of the national govern-
ment. Believing in the equality of men, he denied Jefferson's doctrine of
state sovereignty. Lincoln became the champion and embodiment of two
great American ideas — liberty and national supremacy. He was a great
admirer and follower of Henry Clay and believed in the doctrine of a
protective tariff and other great Whig principles which were inherited
by the Republican party and which have finally come to be the belief of
Lincoln was a politician in the truest and best sense of the term. A
statesman understands the theory of government and a politician the
practice of government. Lincoln was both a statesman and a politician.
There can be no successful government without party, and no successful
i^arty without organization and no organization without politicians. When
Lincoln was a member of the Illinois Legislature he .ioined in a com-
bination with eight others which became known as the "Long Nine."
These members were from Sangamon County and became the early dis-
ciples of that priiiciple of "log-rolling" by which they voted for every
measure by which they could trade for votes for the removal of the State
Capital from Vandalia to Spiiagfield. Lincoln thus became the head and
front of one of the most marked log-rolling schemes known to Illinois
history and he was successful. As a politician he was always fair and
honorable and never struck below the belt.
Lincoln's great power with the people lay in the strength of his
expression. His words were as easily understood by the people amongst
whom he lived as the call of the bird to its mate. As true to nature
ae the roar of the wild beast or the gentle murmur of falling waters. His
thought and speech was as direct as the lightning and his humor, as gen-
tle and wholesome as the laughter of a little child. His Gettysburg speech
and his inaugual addresses are unexcelled classics.
The hour having atrilck, the great stage ready, and the man come, the
curtain rises upon the debates .between the ' '.'Little Giant" Stephen A.
Douglas and the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. Here in Illinois
with her prairies so open that truth could And no hiding place, the people
listened to the immortal words of Lincoln in that great debate and they
caught the inspiration of liberty. The torch was lighted and the fire of
freedom spread throughout the length and breadth of the land.
When Lincoln appeared at the great meeting at Cooper Institute,
New York, he was practically unknown in the East. He arrived hurriedly
from a late train and appeared dusty and ill-attired. His gaunt body was
covered wtli ill-fitting olothe.s; the sleeves of his coat were short and
his trousers came nearly to his knees. The Chairman, ashamed of his
appearance, threw him at the meeting like you would throw a boot-jack
at a cat, He said; "Ladies and Gentlemen, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois."
Then Lincoln spake as never man spoke before, on this great question
of human slavery, With a logic as incisive as steel, he analyzed this
great question from the making of the Constitution up to that time.
His words were as mellow as the cadences of the Kalavalla. Here his
great power of direct speech illuminated the question as it had never
been illumed before. When he had concluded his masterly effort the
cultured East had bowed down in homage to the simple pioneer that the
West had already lifted up on its shoulders. Years afterwards, Mr. Lin-
coln told a friend that at this meeting for the first tirne he thought that
one day he might become President of the United States.
Bunker Hill, Saratoga and Yorktown made us free from the tyranny
of kings but it was not untilthe boys in blue marched with Grant to
Appomattax and the Emancipation Proclamation came from the hands of
Lincoln like the voice of God into the grave of Lazarus, were all of our
people absolutely free. Then for the first time were the theories of the
Declaration of Independence made absolute facts.
Then the storm which had been gathering for more than half a
century broke with all its fury and violence. The first gun fired on
E'ort Sumpter was the voice of destiny calling on the young republic to do
battle for its life. No great array was iui the field to answer to the chal-
lenge. It was not to be a mortal combat between the equipped and
mobilized armies of two great foreign powers; but under the dark cloud
of impending war, loyal citizens asked themselves? "Would the nation die,"
or "would the nation live?" By their firesides, with prattling children
upon their knees, with the tearful eyes of wives upon them, men sought
to resolve their duty. The call was answered from the " plow, the work-
shop, the hill and dale, from country and "city the people flocked to arms.
"They came as the waves come when armies are landed.
They came as the winds come when navies are stranded."
And above the thunder of the muttering storm was heard the voica
of a lion-hearted people, crying to their leader:
"We are coming. Father Abraham, one hundred thousand strong."
You have read of those days — how the firing on Fort Sumpter
aroused the patriotism of the people. You have read of the news of the
defeats at Bull Rvin and Chancellorsvllle; how the splendid army of the
Potomac wasted with disease and Inaction. Then it belonged to the
soldiers from the corniields of the west to look, with Grant, into the
fiery mouths of the cannon at Fort Donnelson, and give to a faltering
cause the courage of a great victory gained. It was their stubborn
courage that chfinged defeat into victory at Shiloh. They waited with
Grant in front of Vicksburg until that place gave way before their grim
determination. And then came the glorious news of Gettysburg; how
Meade threw shrapnel into the ranks of Lee's defeated legions. You
have read of Logan at Atlanta; how after McPherson had fallen he rode
to the front with his long, black hair streaming in the breeze, his eyes
flashing, hs sword drawn, that caught its brightness from the princely
gleaming of his soul, "a mailed warrior, a plumed knight," who plucked
victorj^ from defeat, even, at the cannon's mouth, and with the feroci'ty
of a tiger, compelled submission from bended knees. There may have been
better trained generals, but there never was a braver soldier than John
A. Logan. He was the hero volunteer soldier of that war.
Then Grant, v.'ho never lost a battle, joined in the last death struggle
with Lee in the Wilderness; and then was heard the glad acclaim of the
people,, when the bottom dropped out of armed rebellion upon the field
The soldiers from the cornfields of the west joined in the grand re-
view at Washington, marching down the streets of the National Capital,
cheered by all Christendom. And no braver, better soldiers ever formed
the phalanx of Caesar or followed the eagles of Napoleon.
Then was lifted into the forum of the constitution to shine forever
and ever like a star, the great principle of equality of all men before
the law. Then the shackles fell from four million slaves and they were
lifted from chattels to the rights of American citizenship. Then the Mis-
sissippi in its joyous march to the gulf, and from the gulf to the sea,
told no story of Missouri, sang no song of Illinois. Ini it was not
heard the name of any state, but in that ceaseless murmur between two
great oceans was heard a grand anthem to the American Republic; in it
was heard the voice of a nation proclaiming the will of the people. It
now flows by the home of no slave and no bondsman.
Throagh the blood and tears and suffering of that great war, there
was breathed into this nation the breath of a broader national life. Human
slavery was abolished, state sovereignty was dead, and the liberty of
thought, of speech, and of publication were established.
Standing with a new generation today, looking back, we see the
clouds of war lifting. We see our republic entering upon a career of
progress unequalled in the history of nations, and yet in the forenoon of
its greatness. Seeing all these things, remembering the precious price
that has been paid for this heritage, let us not forget the words of the
immortal Lincoln as he stood upon the famous field of Gettysburg:
"Here let us highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain;
that the nation shall, undei- God, have a new birth of freedom and that
the government of the people, for the people and by the people shall
not perish from the earth."
The time honored saying that a prophet is not without honor save
in his own country was not true of Mr. Lincoln. The people amongst
whom he lived all loved, revered and honored him. What he said and
did and was when in their midst they have cherished as the Hebrew
tribes the tradition of Abraham, and dying, have bequeathed them as a
rich legacy to thoir children.
There is no more pathetic scene in all history than when upon his
departure to assume the duties of Chief Magistrate of the great nation on
the eve of impending war his home people gathered to bid him a last
farewell, and to offer their prayers to God for his safety. In that dark
hour he reached out to touch the hand of his people like a little child
in the darkness reaches out to touch the hand of its mother. He sprang
from the common people and in all his sorrows and battles their touch
gave him strength and courage, as the touch of Mother Earth gave
strength and victory to Antaeos of old. , .
On this Centennial Anniversary the people of Springfield and of
Illinois with one mind and one heart join with all the people of this
Republic in paying a loving tribute to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln and
America — names as inseparable and as immortal in history as the names
of Alexander and Greece, of Caesar and Rome, of Napoleon and France.
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